Yesterday, Jill sent me a Facebook message just before noon to say “morning friend!”

“THANK GOD YOU’RE HERE,” I responded, “I NEED HELP.”

My crisis? It was 11:56 am and I was lying in bed in my underwear, playing games on my phone. I desperately needed her to shame me into putting on some clothes and doing something productive with my life. Thankfully, she did just that immediately and I got on with my life.

This is what happens when I mess with my morning routine.

I figured out long ago that my daily productivity is dramatically improved by a workout in the morning. But knowing you ought to do something and actually doing it are two very different things. When I worked a full-time office job starting at 8am every morning, there wasn’t a chance in hell I was getting up early enough to work out, shower, eat, and get dressed before heading in. I did, however, walk to work every morning with my husband, which only took 15 minutes but was a nice brisk start to the day and a nice chance to chat and connect with him before getting down to business.

When I started working from home after my maternity leave, things were different. I would drop my daughter off at her dayhome and then come back home to an empty, messy apartment, and sit down at my home computer to work. And it felt virtually impossible. Where to begin? What time do I “clock in” for the day? Should I be cleaning the kitchen or answering emails? Maybe I’ll just grab another snack from the kitchen…and on and on, until I would end up back in bed with the covers up to my chin going for another high score in Bejeweled because I just could not deal.

Having always considered myself a very hard-working and extremely productive worker, it was alarming to slip into such a dysfunctional “routine”. My daughter was in her dayhome for 3 days a week, but I was finding the other 2 weekdays where I had her were actually more productive, because having her around stopped me from just going back to bed.

I made use of various productivity tricks to improve this situation over the course of a few months, but things always tended to slip if I let one habit slip: the morning workout.

Everyday struggle. #fitness #productivity #lazy

A photo posted by Emily MacKenzie (@emtron500) on

But here’s the thing my sneaky brain always tries to do in the mornings when it’s time to buckle down and get moving: convince me that the time it takes to get in a workout (30 minutes or less) would be better spent working. This is a trap that I think most people fall into, to some degree: thinking that prioritizing your own health and well-being when you’re busy means you’re neglecting more urgent things. Your mileage may vary, I suppose, but I generally find that brief daily exercise, the kind I do in the morning just to get the blood flowing, dramatically increases what I’m able to achieve afterwards, far more than that extra half hour of sitting at my computer would do. In fact, when I skip it, it’s pretty much a given that I’ll spend that time sitting on Facebook, dealing with unimportant emails, etc, that doesn’t even need to be done.

So what does a good morning look like? Here’s my ideal, that I manage to stick to more often than not:

Somewhere between 7am and 7:40am: Wake up (without an alarm…this is another thing I recommend for your mental wellbeing. I set my alarm for 8am “just in case” but I wake up when my body decides to wake up and feel much better for it.) My toddler, who sleeps in my bed, generally wakes up right after I get out of bed, but if she doesn’t then I’ll gently wake her up too.

7:40-8:20: Make/eat breakfast, get dressed, get the kiddo fed and dressed, make my husband’s lunch if I’m really on top of things (otherwise he can throw some frozen burritos in a bag when he gets up at the last minute)

8:20-9:00: Drive husband to work, drive kiddo to her dayhome, drive back home.

9:00-9:15: Put a load of laundry in (there is always laundry to be done) and change into athletic clothes. Spend at least 5 minutes trying to convince myself I don’t really need to work out.

9:15-9:45: Suck it up and work out. Right now, at 27 weeks pregnant, this means a 30-minute prenatal yoga video on YouTube. Other things I would honestly prefer if my body was up to it at the moment: a more high-intensity workout video (despite the cheesy name, I’m partial to Bikini Body Mommy‘s videos), a taekwondo class, or a run outdoors. When genuinely pressed for time, I’ll do the 10-minute-or-less kettlebell focused workout from the Perfect Posterior section of The 4 Hour Body, because there’s always time to improve your butt a little in the morning.

9:45-10:00: Clean myself up, put away my yoga mat, and change into real person clothes. Make myself an americano in my Power Mug and get down to business.

10am onwards: Just be awesome. Do not go back to bed.

So my real work day ends up being from 10am to 4pm, or just 6 hours. But I would venture to say those 6 hours are a lot more productive than an average office worker’s 8 or 9. Focus doesn’t make a small difference; it makes a huge one. And I hear exercise has some other little benefits, like making you generally less likely to die, which I guess is important too. If you care about things like that.

So take the 30 minutes in the morning and make it happen. And if you see me on Facebook before 9:15am, please remind me of all of this and save me from myself. It’s what friends are for <3